As a romance writer, I’m a member of several writing groups, some big like Romance Writers of America (RWA), some informal like The Wet Noodle Posse (Golden Heart Finalists of 2003), but the one closest to my heart is my home chapter of RWA, Washington Romance Writers (WRW). One of the special joys of belonging to WRW is watching other members achieve their publishing dreams. My guest today is one of them.
Kathy Altman joined WRW about the time I first sold. Her journey to publication has been similar to mine – using writing contests as a way to break in, selling our first book.
“…a very sweet and tender romance told in an understated but touching fashion.” Jane of Dear Author.
Corporal Reid Macfarland has one mission: to make amends for the mistake he lives with every day. That friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan that killed a fellow soldier haunts him. Maybe if he can help the widow, he’ll find some peace. But amends are easier said than done. Just one meeting with the independent and engaging Parker Dean makes it clear that forgiveness is a little more complicated than offering money or an apology. If he really wants to help, Reid has to stick around for a while. The more their daily lives intertwine, the more he realizes her forgiveness isn’t the only thing he needs—he needs her.
Kathy will be giving away a signed copy of The Other Soldier to one lucky commenter chosen at random.
Welcome, Kathy! Tell us about The Other Soldier.
Why, thank you, Diane, I’d be happy to! The story is about an Army soldier, Reid Macfarland, who’s responsible for a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan—an incident that took a man’s life. After his tour he seeks out the other soldier’s widow, desperate to find a way to make amends. Parker Dean wants nothing to do with him, but she’s about to lose her business—a business that was her husband’s dream—so she grudgingly allows Reid to stay while he’s on leave. She resists his attempts to earn her forgiveness, yet can’t help admiring his courage and determination. Her young daughter falls in love with him, and Parker herself wouldn’t be far behind, except…Reid is headed back to war.
This seemed a very daring and difficult premise for a romance. How did you come up with the idea?
I’m normally not the daring sort, so it’s just as well that in the beginning I didn’t realize how difficult this story would prove to be. The book came about as a result of Harlequin’s online Memorial Day Challenge, in which entrants were asked to submit the first 1000 words of a military-themed story. With only 4 pages to grab the editors’ attention, I knew I had to come up with a seemingly unresolvable conflict between my hero and heroine. My first few attempts weren’t powerful enough, and then somehow I landed on the friendly fire premise. By that point I didn’t have time to think twice about it because I’d already frittered away too much time. After I hit send I panicked. If one of the editors actually asked to see more, I had no idea what that “more” would be. How could a war widow forgive the soldier responsible for her husband’s death? I honestly didn’t know how I could make that believable. It took a lot of soul searching (and chocolate-covered almonds and episodes of Army Wives) to figure it out!
This was your first published book. Tell us about your journey to publication.
I was 12 when I read my first Harlequin, and my obsession with horses quickly gave way to a fascination with brooding heroes and gutsy heroines and hard-won happy ever afters. Before long I was fantasizing about writing a romance of my own. I did a lot of plotting over the years, even managed a few scenes of a romantic suspense (scenes that make me shudder now and for all the wrong reasons), but I was less than disciplined. What changed? I turned 40. I’d like to say I was finally mature enough to realize that dreaming would never hook up with doing without a little matchmaking on my part. But really I think I was just desperate to distract myself from rubbing alcohol and reading glasses. I don’t remember how I discovered www.harlequin.com or where I found the chutzpah to not only join my local RWA chapter but actually attend a meeting, but thank heavens I did. The support, encouragement and education I’ve found, both through my local chapter (Washington Romance Writers) and via Harlequin online, has been invaluable.
8 years later after I started writing seriously, I finally sold! Thanks to the Memorial Day Challenge, I won the opportunity to have Superromance editors Victoria Curran and Megan Long critique my story. Two months after I submitted it, on Halloween, I received a voicemail message from Megan, telling me they’d like to go to contract. I was ecstatic! I promptly celebrated by hitting the chocolate. And it was a good thing we only had three trick-or-treaters that evening, because after I finished whooping it up there wasn’t a heck of a lot of candy left.
What is next for you?
Besides camping out at Walmart so I can admire my book on the shelf? I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a proposal I’ve submitted for Joe’s story—Joe is the motel owner in The Other Soldier. He’s a former executive who ditches the city for the quiet country life, but what he finds is a lot of lonely. Well, he does have his guilt to keep him company. His former firm sends his former girlfriend to bring him back but he refuses—unless she’s willing to stay and help with his renovations. The premise is a little lighter than the friendly fire scenario, but I promise the angst is still there. I’m all about angst.
Diane, thank you so very much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog! It has been an honor and a pleasure. And many thanks to everyone else for stopping by today! I have a copy of The Other Soldier I’d love to share—please leave a comment to get your name put into the proverbial hat.
Kathy, thanks so much for being my guest! I can’t wait for Joe’s story!
Readers, tell us what makes a soldier such a popular hero in Romance.
And, please, everyone, consider giving The Other Soldier a try. You won’t be disappointed.